After winning two of their last three games, including a 2-0 drubbing of Cal State Bakersfield in Bakersfield last Thursday, the UCSB women’s soccer team returns to Harder Stadium to continue their brutal nonconference schedule.

This Friday, the Gauchos (3-4-1 overall) play host to an Arizona squad (2-5-1) looking for a bit of payback after Santa Barbara handed them a 1-0 overtime defeat in Tempe last year. That game precedes another Pac-10 showdown the following Sunday, when UCSB takes on #3 UCLA (6-1-1) in a rematch of last year’s confrontation in Westwood, a match the Bruins won 2-1.

On Friday, UCSB can expect more than a venue change against Arizona. In stark contrast to the experienced, senior-laden unit AU fielded a year ago, the Wildcats field a front line full of freshman, and it has cost them. Arizona began their 2009 campaign 0-3-1 after four games, notching their first win against Old Dominion in early September. When the Gauchos and Wildcats faced off a year ago, Arizona was 6-4 and in contention for the Pac-10 title, miles away from where they are today, dead last in the conference standings and the only Pac-10 team with a sub-.500 record. Sophomore forward Renae Cuellar leads the Wildcats with five goals on the year, which ranks eighth in the Pac-10. Senior keeper Devon Wharf has spent every minute in goal for Arizona, but has allowed 18 goals in eight games played. As a team, Arizona has lost by three or more goals three times already this year, with opponents averaging 2.25 goals per game.

The #3 Bruins are a different story. In their last seven games, UCLA has surrendered only three goals, averaging 3.12 goals per game, the second-highest goal average in the Pac-10. UCLA already has posted victories by four or more goals three times this year, highlighted by a 6-1 shellacking of Utah last week.

Sophomore forward Sydney Leroux leads the Bruins with eight goals and an assist, while senior forward Krista Larsen has been proficient as well, netting six goals with three assists. The UCLA defense has been consistent as well as of late, posting three shutouts over their last four games. Redshirt sophomore Chante Sandiford has started almost seven games for the Bruins and has allowed only three goals. Like UCSB, UCLA has played a nonconference schedule filled with ranked teams but have fared better than the Gauchos in those matches. UCLA currently owns a 2-1-1 record against ranked opponents, compared to the Gauchos record of 1-1-2.

As for Santa Barbara, the Gauchos will need to get their offense on back on track if favorable results are to be in their future. Senior midfielder Jaqui Simon and junior Kaylin Kugler are the only Gauchos to have scored more than one goal (2) this year and are two of only five Gauchos that have scored at all. Noticeably absent from the Santa Barbara attack has been senior forward Genelle Ives, the reigning Big West Offensive Player of the Year, who has neither a goal nor an assist after eight games.

UCSB takes on Arizona tomorrow at Harder Stadium starting at 7 p.m, with kickoff for the UCLA match on Sunday slated for 4 p.m. As always, student admission is free.